Monday, October 19, 2020

"I wonder why black folks don't want to join Waco PD?," cops telling on themselves in social media, SWAT excesses in Nacogdoches, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Talk is cheap when it comes to police accountability: Joe Gonzales, the DA in Bexar County, Texas, seems like a nice enough fellow. But it's time for more than promises that his office will scrutinize officer-involved shootings more closely in the future. That implicitly reminds the public your office wasn't doing so before, while failing to expressly acknowledge it or apologize for the failure. We're in a "show, don't tell" moment when it comes to law-enforcement officials reassuring the public they will punish police misconduct. People won't believe it until it actually happens.

Disrespectful: The level of armed surveillance at George Floyd's funeral was unnecessary:

Vice News reports police in Pearland, Texas, requested the presence of Border Patrol snipers at George Floyd’s burial on June 9 and gave them permission to use deadly force as members of the militarized tactical unit known as BORTAC surveilled funeral attendees. Records obtained by Vice also reveal an FBI surveillance aircraft was flown over the burial to monitor for so-called violent agitators. That day, at least six sniper teams were in place on rooftops and authorized to open fire. 

SWAT-ing episode exposes police overreaction: Grits is late to discussing the SWAT-ing incident out of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, but setting aside her classmates' culpability (and calling the cops on your friend is an asshole move) the idea that cops brought in the SWAT team to a dorm over a young woman with scissors speaks to a policy of needless escalation. Even if you accepted the false premise fed to police, their response wasn't warranted.

Hidden tragedy: Read the story of the first man to die of COVID in the Dallas County Jail.

Telling on themselves: An 18-year veteran Fort Worth Police Officer was fired after sharing on social media a meme of a black man in a coffin accompanied by the words, "Stop Resisting!"

Not a crime: Read the case against jaywalking being a crime: Grits agrees with roughly 95 percent of this analysis, though some of this history was new to me. But I've long opposed using criminal law to punish average people for the failures of traffic engineers.

People with criminal records need housing, too: After the public comment period was over, we finally got some MSM coverage of the new rules restricting access to supportive housing for people with criminal records. See prior Grits coverage.

I wonder why black folks don't want to join Waco PD? Read about Waco PD's difficulties recruiting black officers - or really, anybody - to join their ranks: "a police exam might draw close to 800 applicants 20 years ago, and 300 a decade ago, but that has dropped to about 100 in recent years." Readers may recall Waco PD topped the statewide list for agencies arresting the most people at traffic stops; in 2018, cops in Waco arrested about 4.5% of all drivers they pulled over.

Better late than never: Fact checkers at PolitiFact say Gov. Greg Abbott's assessment of crime in Austin was "mostly false." But it shouldn't have taken a separate "fact checking" team to report that. It was false when he first said it and should have been reported that way from the get go.

Varieties of Police Oversight Systems: For anyone interested in the pros and cons of various police oversight systems presently in use, check out this overview from the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. Fascinating stuff: Every decision regarding how to set one up involves sometimes-unexpected tradeoffs. Related: A 2016 guidebook for implementing "new or revitalized police oversight."


  1. Re the Fort Worth officer? Gainesville Fire had a firefighter resign on Friday. Still no word on exactly what he said where in the social media world.

    Aside from the law enforcement/first responder racism?

    I've never understood the need to blather away in public under a real name on Facebook. Idiocy.

  2. Well, I of all people understand wanting to "blather away," but re-posting racist memes is a horse of a different color. I saw the image online, it's like a hundred others.

    Honestly, the only surprising thing to me about it is that cops get in trouble for it now. Just a few years ago, they posted that stuff with impunity.

  3. It is part of the double standard I see talked about on here ever so often, generally with preferential treatment towards LE. LE may be able to see body camera video or take time to make statements after a critical incident unlike the general public, but equal protection of free speech (social media, etc.) for LE is much less than the general public possesses. Kind of a ‘give and take’ in the overall perspective. Bottom line, do stupid things, expect stupid results.

  4. The link you have for the BORTAC story is not the best. Here is the Vice story which, despite its slant, is pretty thorough.

    SWAT type quick reaction force teams, including sniper elements, and airborne surveillance at large scale events are not new. They are there, but are well hidden or should be.

    The article softly implies that they were authorized to use deadly force and clear to open fire as if it were to mean they were clear to open fire on the attendees, but what can you expect from Vice. A page from the City's incident action plan attached to the article described the rules of engagement's level 4 response being deadly force in accordance with Ch. 9 of the Penal Code and even further limited it to sections 9.31 and 9.32, defense of self and defense of others. For the article to say that they were clear to open fire without that context is disingenuous.

    The article does mention right wing groups and counter protestors as a threat as well. Remember, we're constantly reminded that right wing/white supremacist extremism is the biggest threat in America today. The Floyd funeral was a soft target and a prime opportunity for those groups to make a political statement. The local government, with the assistance of state and federal resources, to prepare for the possibility of a mass casualty incident in the manner they did was both proper and responsible. Had KKK Kevin rolled up in there with his AK-47, we'd probably be thankful that there was an element there to drop him.